Rural Housing Guidebook ~ Chapter 5b: Back to the ‘Form’ again…

Back to the ‘Form’ again…

In the course of my blogging, the cage I rattled the most that got some of the most vitriolic replies concerned the idea that maybe we should not forget that houses should be architecturally pleasing as well as thermally efficient. This set of an argument between architects, engineers and physicists; where although I am sure everyone wanted the same conclusion; no party was giving way in their strong belief in architectural design or thermodynamics and all stations in between.

The worry I had was that we need to strike a happy balance, in that a house can be efficient to run at the same time as being aesthetically pleasing; and unless we aim to strike this happy-medium then the end result will be highly efficient cubes. Now I like the modernist cube as much as the next man but I don’t want to see every house looking like one. What we should be pushing is a little variety and it’s this lack of variety that we are also seeing with the proliferation of identikit ‘Rural Design’ houses. Now I know that Passive Houses come in all shapes and sizes and I will show some of this variety in a later section but it’s a very easy step to make to think that the easiest shape to design and build is a cube. As discussed in the previous section, the cube is the second best building form with an ideal perimeter:area ratio (remember the circle is the best form). Also, a cube with lovely right angles at every corner is inevitably going to be the easiest to detail and to obtain an excellent air pressure test. Therefore, I think we should be aiming for architectural excellence in combination with outstanding thermodynamics. With the advent of soft foam, breathable and airtight insulation sprays it is possible to design and create more complex shapes than those currently ‘available’.

In the last section/post I extolled the simple form of the narrow depth, traditional Irish cottage but there are architectural forms that I feel would be just as suitable in the Irish countryside that we as designers and planners as the unfortunately the arbiters of taste are missing out on. I’ve sung the praises of Dominic Steven’s Mimetic House on numerous occassions but in this post I’m looking further afield and the examples I am giving below are on a worldwide basis ( I return to Ireland on the last example with a house in Killiney) and are sketches I have made of houses taken from the excellent website
Therefore the purpose of this section is to show a few of the more unusual forms that detailed in a sensitive way; may be with a more Irish emphasis would be just as suitable in the wilds of County Mayo as the Pacific Pallisades of California.

This first example shows how a modernist form can cling onto and become part of the hillside; some of the details such as the clean edge to the junctions (as opposed to the ubiquitous projecting box gutters) and the vertical emphasis of the windows are actually pure Mayo details! I’ll be looking at what constitutes County Mayo detailing in a future section.


House at Pacific Pallisades by Johnston Marklee

The second example from Ayora in Spain also shows a very modernist form that is also clinging onto the mountain; again the clean lines and simple forms are entirely suitable for Ireland.


Mountain house at Ayora by Fran Silvestre Arquitectos

This third example of a wedge shaped house in Finland even has a detail that suspiciously looks like the concrete barges on a gabled roof. Again a very simple form that is entirely suitable for rural Ireland.


Finnish Lake House by Huttunen Lipasti Pakkanen

And I finish on an example from Ireland, Killiney House by O’Donnell Tuomey Architects (original photographic source ‘Full Irish: New Architecture in Ireland’ by Sarah A. Lappin, where the house organically forms around the landscape that it is in; the forms are more complex


Killiney house by O'Donnell Tuomey Architects

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